This post is about my experience of spending 3 days in Kyoto, Japan. After having spent 7 days in Tokyo I've planned to visit Kyoto for some relaxing and sightseeing of some of the most famous temples and places in Kyoto.
Travel from Tokyo
To travel from Tokyo to Kyoto I've taken the Shinkansen bullet train. The travel time is only 2 hours and 15minutes. The Shinkansen has a top speed of 320km/h. Even though the train speed is really high, the feeling is exactly the same as riding any other train, maybe even smoother.
To buy a ticket for the Shinkansen train I've used the ticket machines at the train stations. There are different types of tickets, first class ticket, reserved seat, unreserved seat. I went for the unreserved seat option because it was the cheapest, but still, a one-way ticket costs around 140$. The unreserved seats are located in the last three sections of the train. Luckily the train was not too crowded and I got a seat for the train ride.
On the train stations, there are numerous shops that sell so-called "bento" boxes, which are simply lunch boxes with different types of food inside. The food inside of the boxes looks a bit like it is made of plastic, especially since all the boxes outlined in the stores are actually made of plastic :) As pictured, I bought a small bento box to eat while on the train. The food tasted good but was nothing special.
After arriving in Kyoto I had to take an additional bus ride to get to my hotel. Transportation in Kyoto is a mix between train and bus systems. The buses are a bit confusing, every route costs a fixed price of 230yen/2$ and you pay when you leave the bus. If the bus is filled with people, it takes quite some time for everyone to be able to get off the bus.
Kyoto is famous for the many different temples and famous streets located all around the city. During the cherry blossom season, which is between 5. April and 15. April, most of the sights will contain a huge amount of pink leaves which presumably gives the sights an even better look. I visited Kyoto from the 22. April till the 25. April, right after the peak cherry blossom season. I was very lucky with the weather when I arrived, the sun was shining and the sky was completely clear of any clouds. On the second day, I even got sunburnt.
Some of the temples require a small entry fee to be paid in the ranges from 200-1000 yen. For the three days that I've spent in Kyoto, I always tried to go to a location by train and then visit multiple temples located around that location by walking.
The ninezaka streets were located right around the corner from my hotel. Those streets are small alleys with a lot of little stores that sell different kinds of foods and souvenirs. Many different kinds of matcha-flavored sweets.
Walking on the Ninenzaka streets, the Hokanji template is not to miss. The temple is surrounded by gates and can be seen from multiple different angles when walking through the streets.
Right at the end of the Ninezaka streets is another temple, the Kōdaiji temple.
The way leading up to the temple is almost more beautiful than the temple itself. A lot of nice trees and little ponds.
On the next day, I got up early, ate breakfast and then went to the famous Fushimi Inari Gates to hike to the peak of the path. According to Google, the path contains over 10'000 gates and takes around 2-3houres to complete.
It took me around 1 hour to the top and back down while listening to music, I almost jogged up there. It was very hot, I was covered in sweat when I reached the top. I know very unspiritual, but by traveling by myself I can do stuff my way ;) The start of the path is filled with tourists but the higher up you get the fewer people are to be seen on the path.
Toji Temple is located in the center of Kyoto. This temple is the tallest temple made out of wood in all of Japan. The temple has a height of 57 meters. To visit the temple you have to pay a small entry fee, you will get a small handout with some information about the temple. According to the handout, this temple got destroyed by earthquakes and fires multiple times and was rebuilt many times.
The inner structure of the temple is pictured above, like our modern skyscrapers, there are moving parts inside of the building structures to be able to absorb the forces from earthquakes without destroying the temple.
Right behind my Hotel was the Kiyomizu-Dera temple. I visited the temple early in the morning around 7am before breakfast.
I was almost alone and it was a very quiet and relaxing atmosphere. The temple has a gorgeous red/orange color.
The Arashiyama Forest is located in the North-West of Kyoto. It took me about 20 minutes with the train to travel to the train station next to the forest. The forest is famous for its bamboo trees and a path that contains a very dense amount of those trees. The path where the trees are very dense is about 1km long and full of tourists taking pictures.
After the dense part of the path, there are multiple further trails one can take to reach higher into the forest. I hiked a little more and reached a very quiet spot with a beautiful view of the forest.
This market consists of a single long alley with plenty of different foods stands, mostly fish, beef and various kinds of sweets.
I ate some amazing sashimi salmon and wagyu beef.
The hotel I was staying at was called Saka Hotel. This is probably the most expensive hotel I've ever paid for myself.
The hotel has many different types of rooms. I first thought i will be sleeping on mats like in the more traditional Japanese ryokan hotels, but my room had a big double sized bed which was very comfortable. The room was very modern with a lot of electronics from USB chargers to private wifi in every room.
The room had multiple parts, in the bathroom, there was a separate room with a little private onsen bathtub. A bottle of sake was provided daily to be poured into the water when taking a bath, apparently, sake is good for the skin.
The booking for the hotel included a daily Japanese keiseki style dinner. Kaiseki is a multiple course menu consisting of many different Japanese foods.
Each night, there were 10 dinner courses with all kinds of foods from savory to sweet.
Each menu contained some kind of sashimi fish, wagyu beef and a lot of different vegetables and many different kinds of rice.
Breakfast was also included and was provided in one course but with many different kinds of small food plates.
On the last night, the sashimi course consisted of lobster. They brought me a still alive lobster to eat raw, I was a little shocked that people can enjoy this, the lobster still had the eyes and almost all of its shell! I told them I cannot eat it like this, they took it back and later brought it cooked.
The hotel bar had a sake tasting menu, i thought when I'm here I have to try it. The barkeeper took out six different kinds of sake and filled a small bottle for each of the wines. The taste was really great, there are also many different kinds of sakes, from sweet to bitter. The amount of sake was way too much tough, I made the barkeeper drink with me as I was the only guest in the bar. He even brought out a seventh kind of sake which was made of red rice, this sake was very sweet but I really enjoyed it. After almost finishing all the bottles I went back to my room to digest and process the just consumed alcohol. The next day I felt a little hangover but i managed to recover quickly.
The politeness of the hotel staff is something a have never experienced before. They bow every time when they enter/leave a room. At dinner, if I tried to try to grab some food like rice from a bowl the just came running to take it out for you. Just the all-around kindness of the staff was giving me a very welcoming feeling.
I really enjoyed my short stay in Kyoto. The only thing i didn't like was the amount of tourist in the public transports and at the sights. But this is probably to expect. I can only imagine how packed the city is during the fully cherry blossom season. I will not be soon visiting Kyoto again, but one day I will for sure return to see the full cherry blossom. I had a really relaxing time and ate some of the best tasting foods ever.